Peer Pressure as a Teen in 2021

Posted on

If you had asked me when I was a kid what I thought peer pressure would be like when I was a teen I probably would have said something like stealing, doing drugs, or sneaking out, because that’s what everyone had said it would be. 

In reality, for me at least, peer pressure is mostly to lie and gossip and ignore my responsibilities. 

Up until about a year ago, anyway. Because now my friends pressure me to take my mask off or hug them, or go to their house. And it’s so crazy to me to have to not do any of those things, because, up until a year ago, I would have done any of that without even thinking. And I can’t anymore. 

Growing up I’ve been surrounded by people who always want to do the right thing and rarely pressure me to do things I know I shouldn’t. And I guess I didn’t really understand until now how hard it is to resist when everyone else is doing it, when they don’t understand why you won’t give in. 

I know it keeps us safe, but it’s so hard when all your friends’ parents don’t care, and let them be close to each other and even want them to go out, and your parents are the only ones following the guidelines and laws and it makes you the weird one for wanting to be safe. 

But truth can be stranger than fiction, and the struggle of wanting to join a group hug and knowing you can’t will always be stronger than saying no to drugs. 

Recap of March Goals from Three Years Ago

Posted on

A few weeks ago I was reading this blog and I remembered a goals post I had written three years ago. I just now did one of the things in it, and I got to wondering if I’d done anything else in the list since then.

Turns out, I have done a lot of the things. So this is kind of a recap of my 2017 March goals. I thought it would be fun to see how my life has changed since then.

I won’t be including the ones that I had finished in the April recap.


Work on Skylar

Skylar was a character in a story I was writing. (The story hadn’t been named at the time) I did finish the story, but now I think its really cringy.

Finish Joy’s Journal

It was months later, but I did finish Joy’s Journal. (You can read it here) XXXX Joy’s Journal was the first story I actually planned. I spent months writing it, and I wrote the words for the story before I took the pictures, so I knew more what I was doing.

When I published the last few parts the pictures had been taken a long time ago and so the writing and the pictures are on different levels.

I don’t read it all that often because I cringe at the bad pictures, but I spent a lot of time on the story and I do like how it turned out.

Start a story called The Legend Of Quiet

I never did that. I kinda want to, but I have no idea what it would be about.


Work on Dolltasticallyfun Pinterest

I hadn’t even opened the page in like two years, but I went to the Dolltastically Fun Pinterest. I deleted the pin of a doll head, but didn’t change anything else. I think I’m just going to leave the account for awhile.

Get at least 35 views on Creative Castle

I might have done that a few months after posting this, but I doubt I’ve gotten more than five a month in the last year.

Post at least five times on Creative Castle

I have posted five times since writing this. Twelve actually.


Read the bible more

This is hard to judge, but I do think I do. I’m reading the book of Proverbs right now/

Read 75 books

Why did I want to read so many books?? I think I read like that many last year! And I had read 42 of them! What did I do with my life???


Sew a nice spring skirt

I don’t sew a lot anymore, but I think I did make a skirt after this.

Work on the star quilt

I did finish it, months later. Well kinda, it still needs a border.


I mean I have, but then I messed it up again. Its been three years, after all. I’ve redone my room multiple times since then. It is fairly clean right now.


I’ve done some organizing, but I’ve re-done literally everything since then so….


Try not to drive people crazy

I’m not sure what to say for this one. I’m not actively trying not to?

Drive people crazy

Nor am I trying to, but I’m sure ive succeeded.

Sort Pictures

My computer was updated recently so I was going through files, but it needs more work.

Sort Music

I was working on that, but it needs work too.

Practice the violin outside of school

I play the violin more than I used to, but I still need to practice a whole lot more than I do.

Play more with Pigs

I honestly don’t remember if I did that. I don’t have either of them anymore.

Put up something on Etsy

Nope, and we put the store on vacation, and I got rid of 90% of the things I was selling. I need to go delete the account.

Picture a day

For the majority of the three years, no. But I received a phone for my last birthday, and now I take pictures of my outfits every day, so kinda?

Purple hair

And now, this is the thing that reminded me of my post. I wanted to dye my hair with Kool-Aid, but it never happened. I found some hair dye in my bathroom cabinet last week and dyed a strip of my hair purple. I really love it, but now I kinda want to dye my entire head purple.

Turns out I’ve actually done most of the things. There are a few things that I didn’t do that I want to now.

Finish the star quilt

Organize music and pictures

Write The Legend of Quiet

Practice violin more

My life has changed a lot, but its cool to see that most of the things that were important to me then are still important to me now.


I Wore a Bandanna Every Day in January

Posted on Updated on

Until recently I’ve never really loved bandannas, it was just something I had and wore sometimes. But then I realized just how many bandannas I had and how I have a lot of bandannas, so I decided to wear them all one month. This was in November, so I decided to start in January, starting off the year, and also skipping December since there are so many events that require fancier clothes.

How many days are in January? As it turns out, a lot.

I’ve never really tried to collect bandannas, I just seem to acquire them. When I decided to do this I had twenty five, most of which I hadn’t even worn. I received several bandannas for Christmas and upon starting the challenge I had thirty nine.

My cousin and sister joined in because they thought it would be fun, so the three of us set out to wear a bandanna every day in January. We called it the bandanna challenge, and we started a board on Pinterest to pin ideas, and a Google Hangout to share pictures of our outfits.

The rules were fairly simple: Wear a bandanna every day in January. I think at one point we had said something along the lines of having to put it on an hour or something after we got up, but that faded out quickly.

My sister only had one bandanna, and we were going to go and buy some more, but it never happened. I, however, had piles of bandannas, so I decided as a rule just for me that I wasn’t going to repeat bandannas at all.

I was going to write about the bandanna I was wearing each day, but I only got like two days in before I gave up, so I’m not going to include those, but I wrote a paragraph the day before I started.

December 31

I currently have thirty nine bandannas and like four ways to wear them. I am bad at tying bandannas. I have no idea how I’m going to wear a bandanna every day for thirty one days. Some of my new bandannas were stiff, and I figured they all could be a bit cleaner so I washed all of my bandannas. Some of the white ones turned pink. I’ll have to bleach them. Most of my bandannas are okay. Bandannas are drying everywhere. I have way too many.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is this%2Bis%2Bkinda%2Bcool.jpg

One of the main goals was to actually put together nice outfits and look cute, but it didn’t really work. I actually tried to coordinate the bandanna with the outfit sometimes, usually when I had church or drama but I usually just threw on a bandanna with whatever I was wearing, usually tied around some part of me.

The first few days were kind of hard, but I eventually got used to it. My cousin dropped out after like a week because her school didn’t allow bandannas, which put her at a huge disadvantage. Apparently bandannas not being allowed in schools is a fairly common thing.

Although having my cousin in the challenge was kind of fun it was also cool to have it be a sister thing. We’d lay on the floor and discuss where to put our bandannas, and it was also cool to not be the only one doing it. Made it less weird.

As I expected I wore the bandanna the traditional way in which you fold the corners of a bandanna up and fold it up until it’s a strip of cloth, then tie it on the top of your head, the most times. Before I started the challenge I could hardly tie a bandanna, but I got a lot better at it.

However I was surprised at how many different ways I managed to wear it. Sometimes people think of cowgirls when they think of wearing bandannas, but I never looked like that. I only ventured into cowgirl territory twice, both times intentional.

So heres the stats

Seven times in the traditional way, with two more variations (Once I tied a knot in it, and the other I didn’t fold it up)

Five times tied around my ponytail, one of those times it being tied in a bow.

Three times wrapped around my wrist, and twice wrapped around my ankle.

Twice tied around my hair half up.

And then the rest were different from each other, tied around my neck, through my belt loops, folded into a hair bow, as a necklace, around my bun, as a blindfold, braided into my braid, folded into a triangle and tied around my neck, tied around my waist.

Then there was the last day.

I wore all the remaining bandannas, nine of them, most of them in ways I hadn’t gotten around to. Then my sister and I took the ones I’d worn already and turned them into a skirt.

Editted blog pic.jpg

I only wore it for a few hours because it was long and I kept tripping on the bandannas, but it was really cool and fun to twirl in and a great way to finish the bandanna challenge up.

bandanna challenge.jpg

So I am officially calling this challenge a success, because I did wear a bandanna every day, and I took pictures every day but one.

It was definitely not the easiest thing ever, and I got so sick of wearing them, but it was fun to find new ways to wear the bandannas every day.

If you like a challenge and have a lot of bandannas I would suggest doing this for a month. It’s fun and creative. (but also long) If you do, leave me a comment and tell me about it!


The Ultimate List of What to Put in a Stress Ball

Posted on

Stress balls list pic.jpg

I made a post about how to make a stress ball, which you can read here. Today I decided to follow up that post with a list of what I’ve tried in stress balls and some comments about the filler.

If you can’t decide what to put inside your stress ball, or if you’d like some ideas, hopefully this post will give you some inspiration.


Flour is the typical thing to put in stress balls. When I have a stress ball people often say “I know someone who made/has one of those with flour in it.” I personally like some of the less typical things better, but flour is still pretty cool. Stress balls made with flour are pretty soft, and you can poke and mold them, and they will usually hold their shape pretty well.

Slime, Cloud Dough, and Floam

Slime is one of my favorite things to make stress balls out of, and it’s also the first thing I did. It’s kind of hard to get in the balloon – I usually stuff it in or oil the funnel first – but I think it’s worth it. If you add fake snow to the slime it makes cloud dough, which is a similar texture to slime but more dough like. If you add foam beads to the slime it makes floam, which is also a similar texture, but kind of crunchy and mold-able.

Water Beads

Water beads are super fun to put in balloons. If you add a lot of water the water beads float around, or if you add no water they get all crushed up into a cool texture. If you add just a little bit of water they usually stay whole, but you can still feel the water beads. I like to put a few water beads in a balloon and then fill it up with water and let them grow, then see how it turns out, but for more control you can grow them in a water bottle and then add water if you want, and put them in the balloon from there.

Fake Snow

Fake snow, or instant snow as it is often called, feels kind of like warm snow. If you change how much water you add the texture is different.  You can buy fake snow, but it’s also the stuff you can find in clean diapers if you cut them open. We had a few from when there were little kids in the house, and I just cut them open and use that.


Ooblick (Cornstarch and water) is kind of messy to get into the balloon, and after sitting for awhile you have to play with it a bit to mix the cornstarch and water together, but after that’s done it feels really cool. You can squeeze it till it’s hard and then it will return to it’s original shape. 

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are pretty easy to get into a balloon with a funnel, and pretty fun. The texture is hard to explain, but it’s one of my favorites.

Epsom Salt, Salt, Sand, and Cocoa

They all feel about the same, but you can make the salts different colors. The cocoa is more powdery, and it smells really good, but it’s kind of expensive to put in a balloon.

Macaroni, Beans, Lentils, and Beads

They all feel kind of lumpy. They usually aren’t anyone’s favorite, but they aren’t the worst.


When people are guessing what is in a balloon they often guess water. I don’t put just water in a balloon because I think it’s boring, I add it to cornstarch, orbeez or fake snow, or sometimes I’ll do one with water and glitter.

Toothpaste, Shaving Cream, and Aloe Vera

These all made a mess. Some people like the toothpaste ones, but it wasn’t really worth it. The shaving cream was cool, but it deflated after about a day.

Foam Beads

The balloons I made with these were really light and felt like there was only air in them, but when you squeeze them they crunch. My mom wouldn’t touch them, and no one else particularly likes them either.

Pine needles

I made one with pine needles because I thought it would be cool, but everyone hated the texture. The two I made ended up selling at my craft sale actually, (They were the only two left) but no one really liked them. 

Then I made one more because why not, and then I put a yellow balloon on it and drew a bumblebee, so that it “stings” you. It was cute, but people don’t like the texture.

Yarn and Stuffing

These just don’t really work.


I got the idea from a bottle with water and oil in it sitting on my desk. I like to turn it upside down and watch it. So I thought if I put it in a clear balloon it would have the same effect. Well it was really cool, but I had colored the water with tie dye, and when the balloon popped, the oil and tie dye got everywhere and made a huge mess. So it was cool, but I didn’t think it was worth it.

So there’s my list. If you still can’t decide I would start with water beads or chia seeds, which are two of my favorites.

If you have any questions leave a comment and I’ll try to answer it!


The Ultimate Guide To Making Stress Balls

Posted on Updated on

Stress ball pic for making 2.jpg

I’m sure there’s some science to stress balls, but I just know they are cool. It helps to squish one while you are stressed, or fidget with one during something long, and they are also great things to give people when you can’t think of anything else.

A few years ago one of my friends came up with the idea to put some slime in a balloon and it was really cool. A few months after that we made a few more, and soon I was making a bunch. I love to experiment with things to put inside them. 

Every year my drama group does a craft sale, and for the past three years I’ve sold stress balls. It’s fun to show them to other people, and they are cheap enough that they sell pretty well. 

My friends love to guess what’s in them and they always ask how I made them. So I thought it would be fun to show you how to make them.



First of all, find some balloons. They will have to be actual balloons of a reasonable size. Water balloons or small balloons won’t work. Helium quality balloons are the best.

Patterned or metallic balloons are fun, and I love to use clear balloons, but plain balloons are fine too.


Picking your ingredients:

There is a lot of variety in what people put in stress balls. Flour is the most common, and water beads, slime, sand, and play dough are also popular.

But you can put almost anything in a balloon, just make sure it’s not so sharp it will pop the balloon, or anything that could mold or rot.

Also, the balloon will probably eventually pop, and when it does it will probably make a mess. Stay away from things that will stain or be really hard to clean up, like oil or tie dye.

A funnel or water bottle to get the filler in the balloon.

Sharpies (optional)

How to do it

Blow up your balloon and then let the air out. This stretches the balloon out.

Using a Funnel:

Put the end of the balloon on the funnel. Pour a little bit of your filler into the funnel. Do a little bit at a time so you don’t have a bunch in the funnel when the balloon is full. Hold the funnel upright so the filling goes into the balloon. If it gets clogged you can use a stick (Such as a chopstick or straw) to unclog it. When the balloon is full you can use a stick to push more filling into the balloon if you want.

Pull the balloon off of the funnel. If there is filling in the stem of the balloon either pinch the balloon at the base and pour it out, or blow enough air into the balloon so that the filling goes into the base. Tie the balloon.

Using a Water Bottle:

This is my favorite method. It usually gets the most filling into the balloon, and is the easiest.

Use a funnel to pour your filling into the water bottle. Pour more than you think you will need, but half the water bottle usually is enough for a normal sized balloon.

Blow up the balloon and twist the stem so that the air can’t escape. Put the neck of the balloon on the water bottle, and then let it untwist. Turn the water bottle upside down and let the filling go into the balloon. Tap the water bottle if needed.

When it’s all inside the balloon pinch the neck shut and take it off of the water bottle. Let the air out of the balloon, trying to do it slowly so that the filling doesn’t go everywhere. Tie the balloon.

Using your Hands:

This one doesn’t require any extra tools, but is kind of harder. It only works with things you can hold, like slime.

Hold the balloon open and stuff the filling in. I usually hold it with the first two fingers on my left hand and the third on my right hand, and stuff with the first two fingers on my right hand.

If there is filling in the stem of the balloon either pinch the balloon at the base and pour it out, or blow enough air into the balloon so that the filling goes into the base. Tie the balloon.

How to Double Balloon:

I like to double balloon my stress balls, because they do eventually pop. If they’re double ballooned they pop less easily, and when they pop they don’t make a mess.

When one balloon pops it will pop easier, and will make a mess when popped. If you pop one balloon either throw it away or just double balloon it again.

Cut all the stem over the knot on the main balloon off first. Blow up the second balloon and let the air out. Cut the lip of the second balloon off. Hold the balloon open and shove the first balloon in. Adjust the positioning if needed. I like to have the knot of the first balloon lined up with the end of the second balloon. Tie the second balloon and trim the excess.

How to decorate:

I like to draw faces and things (Emojis, pig faces, duck faces, Christmas trees, smiley faces, etc…) on the balloons. If the balloons or clear or have something else to make them look cool I’ll usually skip it.

I made a chart of all the things I’ve tried making stress balls out of, with some notes about each of them, but this post was getting to long, so I made another post with the chart, which you can read here.

Now go make a stress ball!

If you make a stress ball or think of something new to put in one, I’d love it if you left me a comment telling me about it!



Posted on Updated on

So apparently this never got posted, but I decided to post in anyway.

This is the story for CWWC fourth challenge. I used all the prompts.

“You’re so pretty”

The cake was for my fourteenth birthday, but what my cousin Chloe meant by the words was the cake was pretty.

Not me.

Chloe has a really weird sense of humor.

It really was a pretty cake. It was in the shape of a circle, with white icing decorated with purple roses. It looked so pretty I didn’t want to eat it.

However it was my party, I had just blown out the candles and both of my friends waited for me to cut it. I handed the knife to Chloe.

“You can cut it.”

She never spoke, never made a sound, but the look in her eyes told me what was about to happen.

Or so I thought.

I thought it was going to be a balloon cake that popped when you cut it, (The actual reason I didn’t want to eat it) the same thing Chloe had made for my last three birthdays.

I was wrong.

It was a cake portal.

I stepped through it and saw a girl drawing circles on a chalkboard. I tapped her on the shoulder.

“Oh, there you are Matilda. I’ve been waiting.”

“H-how do you know my name.”

The girl laughed. “This was all planned. Now come on!”

The girl dragged me into a huge ballroom style room. A long table extended across the length of the room. Cakes and deserts lined the table. I turned around to see Chloe and the rest of my friends grinning.

“You knew?”

“Of course we knew!” Chloe announced. “We arranged it.”

“Now let’s eat!” The strange girl proclaimed.”

“Her name’s Emerald by the way.” Chloe whispered.

Emerald lighted fourteen candles, and I blew them all out, in one breath. We ate all the treats we wanted, until finally it was time to go home. Each girl picked her favorite treat to take home with us, and Emerald led us back to the room where we had come out. We stepped back through the cake.

Back at home I confronted Chloe. “This was nice and all, but perhaps next year I could have a normal cake?”



My Family Eats Weird

Posted on Updated on

My family eats weird.

Since one of my sisters and I were little we have had a sensitivity to certain foods. We say it’s to MSG (Monosodium glutamate.) but in reality there are a lot of foods we ‘can’t eat.’ It’s a sensitivity, not a true allergy, which means we don’t break out or get sick, but it makes us more ‘grumpy.’

So for years, as long as I can remember, we didn’t eat anything with preservatives, MSG, or chemicals. We don’t usually eat that way anymore, we eat mostly what we want outside of our house, but at home we still eat weird. Most of our food is all natural, organic, non gmo certified, and there is a whole list of things we don’t eat.


I love to bake, but with the way we eat, recipes often have to be adapted, changed, or ditched entirely.

We use coconut sugar or honey instead of white sugar, grind our own whole-wheat flour instead of using white flour, no food coloring, cornstarch, buttermilk, cake flour, sweetened condensed milk, corn syrup, cake mix, powdered sugar,.

A lot of things are easily, or at least doably, substituted for. Fruits and vegetables often make good dyes, one part lemon juice, three parts milk (Or water even) works just fine as Buttermilk, cake flour can usually be replaced with normal flour, or a different recipe for the same thing without cake flour found. Recipes without sweetened condensed milk or corn syrup can usually be found instead of one that calls for those things. Cake batter from a recipe can be used instead of cake mixes. Sometimes powdered sugar can be replaced with sugar and flour, but not usually. Powdered sugar is hard to replace.  

Icing is the worst. I know people who think cake/cupcakes aren’t cake/cupcakes unless they have icing, but without powdered sugar, icing is REALLY hard. I’ve tried making icing other ways, but it’s hard without powdered sugar.

Cookie dough icing and peanut butter icing both have powdered sugar in them, though I am going to try to make versions without. Jelly has pectin it in. Marshmallows are bad, though I’m not entirely sure why.

I’m working on coming up with something to replace icing, which is hard, but I like the challenge.


It’s hard when people don’t eat your food because it looks ‘weird’ but it’s really cool when you make something just as good or better as the ‘normal’ version, but completely safe and filled with natural things.

That’s the best part.


Julia Rose Launch Tour!

Posted on Updated on

So today I am particapating in the lovely Julia Rose’s blog launch tour for her new blog Julia Rose Author. She also posts over at DollsNAll, where you might know her from.

Julia Rose

So I did a little interviewy thing, and here it is! I’m in Black, Julia in purple.

First: Why did you decide to start Julia Rose?

Julia: I started my blog to document my journey of writing, my wandering in written worlds (hence the tagline!), and to share the joy of writing with the world! It’s my passion, and it spills into everything I do! I also want to glorify God in whatever I do – and that includes my blogging and writing!

Second: What do you want people to know about your new blog?

Julia:  I want people to be encouraged, and I want them to learn from my mistakes. XD I want my blog to be enjoyable and welcoming. Plus, making new friends in the blogosphere is always so much fun.. I’d like to do writing related posts, with a few articles here and there, writing snippets once in a while, interviews, and maybe the occasional fun reading post (in which I insist EVERYONE reads Chuck Black’s books!).
Third: Do you have an advice for people starting a blog different from a first one?
Julia: Starting a blog is like starting with a fresh page (haha, literally if you’re a writer) and don’t give up. Don’t toss it aside. Press through and do your best! The beginning is often the hardest because you don’t see a lot of fruit out of it. But still, keep going and do it!
And now for some snippets, because yay snippets!
Julia: Aha! Snippet time!  *rubs hands together evilly* I love snippet time. XD Let’s do some mixed-up Kernera snippets (just to get you thoroughly confused!)!
The gravestone was a bleak addition to the cold snowy landscape… an unwelcome one, that is. Tears splashed onto the granite as a young lady knelt on the frozen ground beside it, crying. Towering a few feet behind her was a hulking figure who stepped slowly and uncertainy closer and closer until he reached the kneeling form. He stooped down and awkwardly wrapped his arms around her heaving shoulders. He held her there for a while, offering support as she grieved. She buried her head in his embrace, sobbing. – Beyond Kernera, by Julia Rose

She had but minutes to save herself and the child. Just as she reached Cheval Beau, a shadowy figure snapped the rope keeping him, leaped into the saddle and galloped soundlessly away. Cheval Beau tossed his head wildly, whinnying, and fear gripped her heart like an icy hand with clawing fingers.

“No,” she whispered. But that was all she could say, for during her shock she had lost her senses and did not take in her surroundings, for she was grabbed roughly and thrown behind the saddle of a strange horse. The stranger covered her mouth with a thickly gloved hand and sharply hissed, “Not a sound or our death will arrive.” – Journey to Fort Kernera, by Julia Rose

Anger continued to swell within the man as he reached the entrance of the cave. It used to be his comforting abode – the only place to return to as a haven during the chaos of the world. But when he had left abruptly….

“Well, at least someone put it to good use,” he muttered, lifting the play sword. It looked too much like the one he had made for his own son… it brought back too many painful memories. He threw it to the ground. His voice echoed throughout the cave as he yelled to no one in particular – or so he thought. “Why did everything have to happen? Why?! I can’t let go. I won’t forget!” He turned sharply, and in doing so struck an unforeseen corner of the room. He swore, and then saw a small scrap of paper protruding from a crack. Could it have survived all these years? He knelt, hope beginning to fill him once more. He grabbed the corner and tugged… but he immediately deflated. Only the corner was still in existence. – Because of Kernera, by Julia Rose
Those three snippets are from the three short stories that make up my Kernera trilogy! I really, really love/loved writing those and you’ll have to keep watching my blog to find out the rest!
So go read Julia’s blog to find out the rest of the story, and because her blog is awesome!

Merry Christmas Eve + Snow

Posted on Updated on

Merry Christmas Eve!

It’s about 7:30 on Christmas Eve, and as long as I’m on my computer I should do something productive right? Gets me out of being social at least.

Okay, so today I am going to talk about snow.

It’s snowing pretty hard here right now. It might not be the first time in my lifetime we have had a white Christmas, but certainly the first time I can remember. I really hope it sticks and we get our white Christmas after all.

Here is a picture I tried to capture of the falling snow. It’s not great, but I like it.

I love snow. I love almost everything about it. I don’t care if I am not four, I will squeal SNOW!!! and run around in it.

I love the sound of the snowflakes hitting the ground with soft thumps. I love how the snow dims the world into a white wonderland. I love being alone outside in the snow, hearing nothing but the world transforming. I love how the moonlight bounces off the snow in the dark. I love soft footsteps in the snow. I love feeling snow on my hair. I love seeing the unique snowflakes. I love waking up after a hard snow and seeing the white world. I even love being cold in the snow.

When it snows, to me at least, the world becomes peaceful. As if nothing else matters. Just snow. 

Okay, there’s this year’s Christmas Eve post.

Merry Christmas Eve, enjoy Christmas tomorrow, and remember the real reason for the season. Jesus.